Restaurant Week is a win-win for both guest and restaurant if done right but, If done wrong--it could be the exact opposite. Three-course lunches for $24.07 and dinner for $35 allow New Yorkers to try new restaurants for a great price. Although not all restaurants around the city participate, you're more than likely to find a restaurant you've wanted to try. Over 250 restaurants around the city participate in the biannual event, which lasts 2 weeks; but is sometimes extended on an individual basis. Restaurant week is a great deal for guests who want to try a restaurant that might normally be out of their price range or maybe a restaurant that they weren't aware of. For restaurants, this is a great marketing opportunity to get people in and create regulars. So in a perfect world, a guest will have an amazing meal during restaurant week and will visit that restaurant on a consistent basis. But we don't live in a perfect world, so this doesn't always happen. Restaurants create restaurant week dishes to cut down on food costs, portions are minuscule, and the service is compromised due to the "turn and burn" mentality. Do some research, because its an awesome promotion if you find the right restaurant.
Unfortunately, I only made it out once during restaurant week; but fortunately I had a great experience. A rather spontaneous lunch with Ms. Fields--not the cookie lady but a coworker. We decided on Tocqueville, a restaurant right outside Union Square that focuses on seasonal ingredients from the Greenmarket. The food was American, but there was a strong European emphasis. Arriving a little early, the hostess invited me to sit in the vestibule while I waited for Fields. Upon her arrival we walked through a lounge-bar area and into the dining room. The space tried to be grand with silk drapes, but it fell short. It was classy and elegant, but a bit stuffy for my taste. The service was good, although it felt a little fake. Our waiter provided prompt, attentive, and knowledgeable service; but there was something off. It was almost like he was putting on a show--given a script of what his boss wanted him to say. Either way, the service was fine! The food was better and for some thats all that matters.
For appetizers we got the heirloom tomato salad with a lemon verbena consomme and olive oil ice cream. This dish was paired with a 2010 Sauvignon de Touraine from the Loire. Our other appetizer was white and green asparagus with a black truffle vinaigrette paired with a 2009 Cote De Rhone. Both appetizers were equally impressive and got us ready for our next course. For our entree, we got the soft shell crab and the quail. The soft shell crab sat atop a watercress and hearts of palm salad. This crispy treat was paired with a rose from the Languedoc-Rousillon part of France. The quail was a bit small, but had some great flavor and was cooked beautifully. A side of quinoa mixed with cherries and almonds accompanied the grilled quail. A light red (2009 Vin de Pays) paired well with quail as it was strong enough to stand up to, yet not overbearing. So far, so good! Dessert were tastey, but didn't stand out. Maybe its because we were rushing or maybe its because our appetizers and entrees set a high expectations. I did really enjoy the non-vintage Mavrodaphne of Patras from Greece that paired with my bitter chocolate millfeuille. The Ricotta mousse came with a rhubarb compote and strawberry granita, which was a nice contrast to our chocolate dessert. A German ice wine paired well with this rich treat.
Overall, Tocqueville provided a great experience. The food, wine, and service were all good, but nothing blew me away. The best part of the meal was the company. Although I had a great time here, I'm not sure if I'll be rushing back. Its definitely a good place to check out if you never been, but there's so many restaurants to try! Tocqueville does a Greenmarket tasting menu, so it doesn't have to be restaurant week to stop by and taste seasonal, fresh cuisine thoughtfully prepared.